Just over a month ago, we got to do the English language exclusive for Cheval De Frise and the first track from their re-released and remastered debut, which comes courtesy of Carl Saff and friends over at Computer Students.
The French duo’s razor sharp attack is a perfect place for the boutique engineering/manufacturing/label collective to show off their skills, but above all, it’s a wonderful excuse to fall in love with the record all over again.
To be fair, the original 2000 mix from recording engineer Guillaume Largillier was no slouch job. But distilling a coherent clarity between Thomas Bonvalet’s mostly-acoustic madness and Vincent Beysselance’s powerful drums was a task made no less difficult by the sheer obscurity of the arrangements themselves – part of what made the record so charming, in the end, was it’s bold approach to dynamic.
Thankfully, the pervasive warmth and overall frenetic feelings remain present on the remaster, so long-time fans don’t need to worry about any kind of revisionism. There is, however, a lot more attention to detail in the performances themselves. Bonvalet’s more melodic moments shine brighter now with slight bumps of EQ and saturation, which help further the emotional highlights of the songs themselves. It also shows respect for the source material, which we’re sure is appreciated.
Cheval De Frise’s pensive concoctions feel more relevant than ever, and that also feels observed here – but maybe it’s just the timing. When the band really steps on it, it has the immediacy of something that could have been written (or at least, improvised) yesterday. Like when the haunting descent through 3/4 grooves in the first half of “Langue Hastée” morph into the post-punky, overdriven suds. You can hear a lot more chewiness in the distorted parts, and it makes moments like these, ones the record is known for, all the more invigorating.
The cymbal work, which is essential to the band in terms of orchestrating different dynamics, sound slightly bigger, and more spread apart. This slight shift in character and panning adds more of a classic isolation booth touch to their production, and there’s a lot more breathing room to be found in all the the splashy hi-hat, ride-edge action. You can hear this immediately on tracks like “Incliné et chenu” and “Les canaux sont ouverts, les moustiques meurent, le monstre disparait,” which show off how a more methodical approach to even the most chaotic of Beysselance’s divisive drum patterns can (and has) result in a better overall capture of Bonvalet’s post-classical articulation. Again, the OG mix is still a classic. We’re just saying hearing the absolute guts thrown into the pick attack is really exciting.
The guys at Computer Students actually sent us one of the vinyl copies of the record a week in advance, and before we conclude things here, we just want to confirm that the packaging and layout are indeed as immaculate as they make it look online. Like, we picture them making these in powder-white industrial hazmat suits on the moon in conjunction with AI and sentient robots with giant laser beams on their heads.
The poster is really excellent too, we’ve got a lot of cool posters but this one just has a mythical quality to it. They also sent us a copy of the Hey!Tonal LP, which we’re looking forward to getting into. Even just holding either record, in it’s hermetic aluminum seal, is very space-age feeling. Computer Students’ staff certainly has an eye for detail when it comes to aesthetics as well.
But they probably don’t do their job just so we can talk about them. Either way, Computer Students has not only preserved, but enhanced the legacy of one of French alternative music’s most cherished gifts to the world. Everything we felt about the record before, we can feel more confidently now, and what’s more is we can even come to new conclusions as well, thanks to added levels of clarity.
We’re not sure if this is the precursor to any kind reunion type situation or if there would ever be one in the first place, but we’d be some happy little clams if it did. Although Cheval De Frise did release a couple more records before breaking up in 2005, this was sadly before Bandcamp. You can find their album’s on Youtube, but if you wanna be legit, buy it from the Computer Students website here. And then buy us a coffee here. Because you’re legit. Coming up we’ve got news about the upcoming series of compilations, a gig review with Covet, New York legend Martin Bisi and more. Thanks for reading!